In my annual (at least) reading of the Declaration of Independence, I have been thinking a lot about this section:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
Continue reading A declaration of gun independence
Ken Screven was, according to the Times Union newspaper’s Chris Churchill, “the most recognizable black person here in one of the nation’s whitest metropolitan areas,” i.e., Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY, for most of his 34 years as a now-retired television reporter. Having lived here for most of this period, I daresay Churchill was right. Screven even covered a couple stories I was involved with, notably the January 1985 Rock for Raoul benefit, honoring the late Albany cartoonist/FantaCo employee/my friend Raoul Vezina.
I had this, literally, nodding acquaintance with Screven when I’d see him in Albany’s Center Square, sort of the curse someone who has met a LOT of people (Ken) go through. We’ve more recently become Facebook friends, sometime after he became a blogger for the Times Union website, as I am.
Continue reading Well, maybe not ALL people, but…
If you were old enough – and I was – the name of Kitty Genovese was a name you knew. Not just that she was a murder victim in Queens, NYC, stabbed to death on March 13, 1964, “one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year,” but that the apparent indifference to her plight by over three dozen “witnesses” spoke volumes about the apathetic nature of a segment of American life:
…the gist of the [New York Times] piece lent itself perfectly to Sunday sermons about a malaise encompassing all of us. Continue reading The Kitty Genovese narrative largely debunked
I could have sworn I had written about my concerns about the Stand Your Ground laws after Florida passed it, long before the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Can’t find it. So I’ll cheat, and expand on this document from the government of the state of Connecticut.
The Castle Doctrine and “stand-your-ground” laws are affirmative defenses for individuals charged with criminal homicide. The Castle Doctrine is a common law doctrine [going back to English common law] stating that an individual has no duty to retreat when in his or her home, or “castle,” and may use reasonable force, including deadly force, to defend his or her property, person, or another. [There was a case a few years ago where some drunk guy wandered into someone’s home in western New York at 1 a.m. The intruder was shot and killed, and no charges were filled.] Outside of the “castle,” however, an individual has a duty to retreat, if able to do so, before using reasonable force.
Stand-your-ground laws, by comparison, remove the common law requirement to retreat outside of one’s “castle,” allowing an individual to use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat. [Note this important distinction; one does not have to walk away from the conflict.] Deadly force is reasonable under stand-your-ground laws in certain circumstances, such as imminent great bodily harm or death.
Continue reading Is Stand Your Ground bad law?
After George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin death in Florida, the New York Daily News did a piece When will it end? Deadly racial targeting of black men and teens is hardly ancient history.
So I find it difficult to look at the case as a singular event but in the context of a social pattern. Black-on-black murder doesn’t make headlines, unless it hits an epic proportion, as it has in Chicago recently. Black-on-white murders statistically draw tougher sentences. So there is always uneasiness when a white-on-black killing takes place. Continue reading Florida: race, murder, self-defense
My church, First Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The church donated some artifacts to the Albany Institute of History & Art, itself founded in 1791. The Institute has an exhibit, ongoing through April 17, showing some of the church history over the years.
Some of the church members included John Jay, eventually the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; and Aaron Burr, third Vice-President of United States, and the first NOT to go on to become President.
After Burr killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Continue reading K is for Killing
Listen to the KunstlerCast podcast #212: Health & Technology Update. James Howard Kunstler gives listeners an update on his recent health issues, and discusses the importance of advocating for oneself when dealing with medical professionals, rather than taking their word for it.
Keyboard Waffles. (But if they were REAL nerds, they would have spelled nerd’s correctly!)
My favorite new blog: Grammarly, Continue reading August Rambling: Punctuation, Crowdfunding
Chris Honeycutt, who interviewed me for the NYADP Journal, noted I wrote about Into the Abyss, about homicide and the death penalty, notes:
That’s the end I started from on the anti-death penalty work. I was more interested in crime and killers than just about anything else. Particularly their psychology: everybody covets. Everybody gets angry. Everybody has moments of blind rage. But some people are missing that fundamental “wall” in their mind that says “Don’t physically hurt someone.”
It’s lead me to other questions: if a man can hit someone out of rage, not in a sporting way or in a fight but just out of nowhere slug someone, is that on the continuum?
Continue reading A Question of Murder
One of the facts about 9/11 is that if you’re young enough, it was the singularly shocking event. But if you’re old enough, you might recall Pearl Harbor, various assassinations, Chernobyl or the Challenger disaster. I don’t remember Pearl Harbor, but I do recall two Kennedy assassinations and those of Medgar Evers and of ML King, Jr when I was growing up. It was Evers’ death I first recall.
But the event that actually terrorized me more Continue reading Earliest recollection of tragedy QUESTIONS
Questions: Who was the youngest person executed in the 20th century in the United States? And what ever possessed me to think about that?
Let me take the second question first. A friend and colleague recently saw the 1994 Oscar-nominated film Heavenly Creatures, directed by Peter Jackson. “Based on the true story of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker [Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, both first-time movie actresses], two close friends who share a love of fantasy and literature, who conspire Continue reading D is for Death Penalty